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9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds “God” Reference in Pledge of Allegiance
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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 yesterday that references to “God” in both the Pledge of Allegiance and on coins and paper bills are not violating the separation of church and state. In the majority opinion Judge Carlos Bea wrote, “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded.” Bea also said that schools do not require students to recite the pledge. The reference to “God” was added to it in 1954 at the height of the Cold War.

In a separate 3-0 ruling the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto, “In God We Trust” on coins and bills. The judges cited an earlier ruling that the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic and “has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion”.

In 2002 the same court ruled in atheist Michael Newdow’s favor. The court said at that time that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment restriction against an established state religion. The ruling caused uproar, a Senate resolution was passed condemning the ruling and then President Bush called it “ridiculous”. The suit reached the Supreme Court in 2004 but the Court said Newdow did not have the standing to file the suit because he didn’t have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case. Newdow filed an identical case on behalf of other parents with the same objections and in 2005 a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Newdow’s favor, sending the case back to the appeals court.

  
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Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote a 123 page dissent to the 60 page majority opinion. He was one of the judges who ruled in Newdow’s favor in 2002.  In his dissent Reinhardt said, “Under no sound legal analysis adhering to the binding Supreme Court precedent could this court uphold state-directed, teacher-led, daily recitation of the ‘under God’ version of the Pledge of Allegiance by children in public schools.”

Newdow will ask the appeals court to rehear the case and if it rejects his request, he says he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The opinion can be read here.

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